Talking Point: StreetPass - Is Silent Communication the Future?

We dive into the 3DS's automatic multiplayer

The 3DS is loaded with software right out of the box, from Face Raiders to Augmented Reality games, but it's the console's StreetPass functionality that Nintendo is banking on turning the console into a part of daily life for its owners.

If you haven't been using StreetPass, you're missing out on some of the most interesting technology the 3DS has to offer. Here's a quick guide to what it can do, and what it all means.

How to Get Started with StreetPass

Nintendo's philosophy for the 3DS is "Carry Around, Affect Each Other and Something New Every Day", and StreetPass is key to that goal.

The idea behind StreetPass is that users never turn their console off, only putting it into Sleep Mode by closing the machine's lid. When the wireless switch is on, the 3DS will continue to emit a wireless signal to search out other 3DS users in the nearby area: if it finds a console, it will communicate with it automatically without any user input. A green notification LED will let the user know if the machine has found anyone.

To start up StreetPass, you'll need a Mii character, so head into the Mii Maker. Next, load up the StreetPass Mii Plaza and the game will guide you through setting up the system.

Once you're all set up, all you need to do is place your machine in Sleep Mode and carry it about on your person wherever you go: your 3DS does the rest!

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If you're popular, this could be you.

What's The Point?

Well, good question. It's all well and good seeking other consoles out, but what does the machine do when it finds them?

The console contains two built-in StreetPass games, known as StreetPass Quest (Find Mii in North America) and Puzzle Swap. The latter is a simple jigsaw-like affair that rewards players with impressive 3D scenes from classic Nintendo franchises, but it's StreetPass Quest that offers the best incentive for players to carry their machines around everywhere.

StreetPass Quest is a simplistic role playing game that sees players joining forces with the characters they meet on the road to free a King or Queen, but you won't play for the plot; you play for the promise of sweet, sweet Nintendo hats.

Completing certain rooms on your way to the top of the tower rewards you with Nintendo-themed hats to put on your StreetPass Mii. Sadly they don't carry over to Mii-enabled games like Pilotwings Resort , but your Mario cap-wearing Mii will appear in the console of any 3DS owner you pass by.

Making your way to the top of the tower requires equal parts luck and skill: each character's favourite colour defines their magical ability, with certain parts all-but impossible to pass unless you have a character of a specific colour. Of course Nintendo understands it's not easy for everyone to make StreetPass hits, so you can spend your Play Coins to unlock a randomly coloured low-level character.

StreetPass Quest is the clearest implementation of Nintendo's "Carry Around, Affect Each Other and Something New Every Day" ethos: if you get stuck in a particular room, just keep carrying your console around every day and you might meet somebody to help you out. The game was no doubt designed with such romantic ideas in mind, and the serendipitous nature of the game is Nintendo to the core.

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The simplest explanation of how StreetPass works.

But Is It The Future?

That's the question. Considering the 3DS Friends List is severely lacking, StreetPass is an interesting way to expand the console's multiplayer features without anyone really realising it. Whereas the Wii excels at pulling people around one TV to game together, it's not easy on a handheld, so Nintendo has essentially created a multiplayer system where everyone plays separately, at different times and in different places, with just a brief meeting tying them together.

The other major reason behind the system's StreetPass functions is to turn 3DS players into advocates: as the 3D effect is impossible to experience without seeing the console itself, Nintendo is urging owners to mobilise their machines. Whether this system will increase sales remains to be seen, but if it helps to spread information and understanding Nintendo will consider half the battle won.

While Quest is a neat built-in RPG, if other developers don't build on this start it'll just be a quirky freebie. Out of the 3DS launch games, half a dozen use StreetPass to exchange data silently, from lap times in Ridge Racer 3D to figurines in Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, but the real proof of StreetPass's enduring appeal will come with how it's used in future titles. As the 3DS-owning population increases, so too must the list of reasons to carry the console around: major first-party titles like Animal Crossing and Mario Kart have to advance the feature, and we'll likely hear more about these titles — and more — at E3 in early June.

What level of success have you had with StreetPass — have you achieved a lot of hits, are you still waiting for your first? What do you think is the future for the system? Is it really an innovative multiplayer solution or just a clever way to get gamers to show their consoles off? Join the discussion in the comments below.